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Vancouver, British Columbia is a famous city for all things outdoor-related. It’s a city with outstanding natural beauty in all directions—mountains, forests, beautiful hikes, and the ocean are all accessible quickly. But, Vancouver city is also home to its fair share of green spaces. One of the most popular in Vancouver is Stanley Park.
Stanley Park is not only a popular spot for visitors, though. Locals are obsessed with this park too! Stanley Park provides a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle of Vancouver. In minutes you can seemingly disappear from the city and enter another world.
Stanley Park absolutely must make it onto your Vancouver itinerary. In this blog, I’ll share everything you need to know about visiting Vancouver’s Stanley Park about as well as the 21 best things to do in Stanley Park!
About Stanley Park, Vancouver
Where is Stanley Park located?
Stanley Park is located in Vancouver, BC, in the western section of the downtown peninsula. The park is surrounded by the ocean waters of Burrard Inlet and English Bay. Stanley Park can be accessed through downtown Vancouver’s west end neighborhood to the east and the Lions Gate Bridge (Highway 99) to the north, which takes you to North Vancouver.
What is the best way to get to Stanley Park?
Although there are a few options, the best way to get to Stanely Park is by car or bicycle. Because of the park’s size, these options allow you to easily get to Stanley Park and then explore the different areas. A car is a popular option because of the amount of parking in Stanley Park but a bike gives you more freedom. You could also drive, park up and rent a bike/ bring your own.
Depending on where you are staying in Vancouver, you can most likely walk to the entrance of the park and rent a bike nearby. Areas such as West End, Coal Harbour, and even Gastown are close enough.
It is also possible to take public transit to Stanley Park, but no bus service goes throughout the park. Therefore, if you take the bus, you will need to walk or rent a bike when exploring Stanley Park.
Is there parking at Stanley Park?
Yes, there is parking all over Stanley Park. There are lots of smaller parking lots as well as several large parking lots throughout the park including one near Stanley Park Brewing and another large one at Third Beach. Parking is generally easy to find unless there is a large event.
All lots offer paid parking; current rates are $2.70/hour or $7.50/day during the winter and $3.70/hour or $14/day during the spring and summer. There are also seasonal and annual parking passes.
You can read about more parking options here, but don’t worry there are lots!
Is Stanley Park worth visiting?
If you are in Vancouver, Stanley Park is worth visiting! Not only is the size of the park (405 hectares!) impressive, but there are a ton of fun things to do in Stanley Park. In addition, it’s a beautiful park with unparalleled views. Visiting Stanley Park is loved by locals and visitors alike and it’s easily one of the best things to do in Vancouver.
Does Stanley Park close?
Stanley Park closes overnight and, like other parks in Vancouver, is open between 6 am to 10 pm unless otherwise posted.
Is it free to go to Stanley Park?
Stanley Park is free to visit, although parking and some of the activities cost money. However, if you plan to simply walk, run, or bike the seawall or visit the beach, it is an entirely free activity in Vancouver! Therefore, this guide to things to do in Stanley Park will include the price of any activity that costs money.
How Big is Stanley Park?
Stanley Park is 405 hectares. It is the largest urban park in British Columbia, though not in Canada. It is actually larger than Central Park in New York, the most famous urban park in the world, arguably.
21 Things to do in Stanley Park, Vancouver
1. Bicycle the seawall
Biking the seawall is one of the quintessential Vancouver experiences. It’s the perfect way to spend an afternoon, explore Stanley Park, and see the beautiful views of Vancouver.
The portion of the seawall that goes around Stanley Park is 9km, which takes about an hour to bike. The seawall does extend further than just the park, so it’s possible to ride longer. Stanley Park seawall has dedicated bike lanes, so it is easy to bypass those who are walking and running.
If you don’t have your own bike, there are many places to rent bikes close to Stanley Park. Spokes Bicycle Rentals is located a few blocks from the start of Stanley Park and has bikes for rent for $8.57/hour, including helmets, locks, and baskets. This is what I do when I’m visiting Vancouver.
If you would prefer a guide, this Stanley Park bike tour is a great option. It’s 3-hours long and includes your bike, local guide, and helmet.
2. Ride the Stanley Park Train
The Stanley Park Train is a fun, family-friendly activity! Passengers can take a 15-minute ride on a vintage train through the park. In addition, the train has different seasonal events, like the Bright Nights Train during winter in Vancouver with fantastic light displays. Or, the Ghost Train near Halloween with costumes and spooky decorations. Depending on when you go, tickets are between $10-15 CAD.
3. Walk one of the many trails
Stanley Park has 27km of trails through the central forested area. It’s perfect for hiking, walking, running, or bicycling. Most of the trails are pretty flat, but some sections can get a bit steep. As you explore the forest, you will see some of the tallest trees in the country!
Hiking through Stanley Park makes you feel like you are genuinely in the middle of nowhere, despite being in the city. I don’t even take a map when I go. Just walk until you get lost! Don’t worry though, Google Maps works in the park and most of the trails are shown there.
If you’re more of a planner though, check out the best hikes in Stanley Park before you go!
Related read: Check out the other best easy hikes in Vancouver!
4. Visit the Vancouver Aquarium
The Vancouver Aquarium has been a mainstay of Stanley Park and the city since 1956, popular with locals and visitors alike. The Aquarium is home to over 65,000 animals and has 30 different exhibits. The exhibits range from animals in the tropics to those in the Arctic, so you can really get a full experience of the natural world.
The Aquarium is committed to animal rescue, research, and environmental stewardship. In addition, some educational programs help visitors learn more about animals and how to care for them.
A visit to the Aquarium costs $42 CAD/adult and $26.25/child. The Aquarium is a fantastic place to spend the day and is also one of Vancouver’s best rainy day activities.
If you would prefer a private tour, this specific tour takes you to the Aquarium and the famous Bloedel Conservatory. Be aware though, it doesn’t explore Stanley Park.
5. Eat at The Teahouse
The Teahouse is the premier dining destination in Stanley Park. There are some seriously amazing views from the dining room, providing a beautiful setting to enjoy your meal.
Their menu is full of delicious Canadian and seafood dishes. Some of my favorites include the Lobster Bisque, Brome Lake Duck Confit, Steak, and the Crab and Shrimp Crusted Halibut.
The Teahouse is also open for brunch or cocktails, so it’s a great place to stop in at any time of the day!
6. Enjoy a day at the beach
Stanley Park is the best of both worlds if you love being outdoors – you can go from dense forest to sandy beach in a matter of minutes! There are two fabulous beaches in the park where you can hang out and relax.
Second Beach is a sandy beach with a concession stand and bathroom facilities. It’s not a huge beach, but it has space to layout and suntan or go for a swim! During the summer, there are lifeguards at Second Beach.
Third Beach (do you like how creative the names are?) is larger and has the most amazing views of the ocean and West Vancouver!
You might be wondering where First Beach is… It’s officially called English Bay Beach and sits just outside of Stanley Park. It’s also pretty nice and is equipped with volleyball courts, concession stand and restaurant, bathrooms, and other amenities.
7. Swim at the outdoor pool
If you’re not crazy about swimming in the ocean (it can be cold,) Stanley Park has other options! Second Beach Outdoor Pool is a huge heated pool located close to the beach. It’s 80m long and has both a children’s area with waterslides and lengths for swimming laps.
It can get pretty busy here in the summer, so go early to claim your spot!
8. Reserve a picnic area
If you are with a large group of friends and family, Stanley Park has reservable picnic sites! There are a few different spots throughout the park that you can book ahead of time. These reservable areas have shelters and cooking facilities. It’s the perfect option if you plan on having a party with lots of people.
The cost to reserve these sites ranges between $115-200 CAD, depending on the spot you get.
9. Drink at Stanley Park Brewing
A nice cold beer sounds pretty good after a day biking the seawall or hanging out at the beach! Luckily, there is a brewery right in the park! Stanley Park Brewing makes some delicious Westcoast-inspired craft beers. You can stop by the brewpub and tasting room located right at the entrance of Stanley Park to try them out.
The brewpub is an excellent spot to grab a beer and bite to eat. They have large covered patios in a revitalized heritage building from 1930! It has a casual, fun atmosphere and a great menu of beers and bites to choose from.
My favorite beers are the Sun Setter Peach Wheat Ale and the Trail Hopper IPA. The Sun Setter is my go-to summer beer and the Trail Hopper warms me up in winter. For food, I love the spicey Ahi Tuna Poke if I’m after something healthy and the JRG Cheese Burger if I’m after something hearty!
Regardless, there are plenty of beers and pub food to choose from, so it’s a place most will love.
10. Check out the Stanley Park Totem Poles
One of Vancouver’s most visited tourist attractions are the First Nations Totem Poles, set at Brockton Point in Stanley Park. There are nine totem poles in total that were brought to the area from Haida Gwaii, on the central coast of BC. The most recent pole was carved by a member of the Squamish Nation and brought to Brockton Point in 2009.
These totem poles are beautiful to look at, and they are a way to connect with the history and culture of the First Nations peoples in the region. This is truly one of the more special things to do in Stanley Park.
Related read: You can visit Squamish on the beautiful drive from Vancouver to Whistler!
11. Attend an event
Stanley Park is home to the Malkin Bowl, a large outdoor performance stage that has hosted a ton of notable concerts and performances. Famous Canadian musicians like The Tragically Hip have played at the Malkin Bowl.
The event space is used for other events besides concerts, such as the wildly popular Theatre Under the Stars, which puts on fantastic theatre performances each year. You can check their website for the upcoming shows but this is a summer event only as it’s outside.
Other events are hosted in Stanley Park include the Summer Cinema Series held every Tuesday in July and August. This event is a huge outdoor cinema that shows classics and some new movies. There are also lots of fun runs and marathons that loop through the park on their route – although that’s typically not my thing.
If you’re visiting Vancouver in summer, then there’s likely an event on during your stay, and with Stanley Park’s natural beauty, there’s no better place to enjoy the fun.
12. Cool off in the Splash Park
This one’s for the kids or adults that never grew up (and there’s nothing wrong with that!) The Stanley Park water park is the perfect place to cool off on a hot summer afternoon.
The water park is located close to other attractions in the park, like the train and Aquarium. It is a large water park with ample room for kids to run around and get soaking wet. The waterpark is unsupervised and has a grassy area with picnic tables nearby. It’s the perfect place for a family picnic!
13. Check out Brockton Point Lighthouse
The Brockton Point lighthouse is one of the most picturesque spots in Stanley Park. While the current lighthouse was built in 1914, the story of it dates back to 1890. It is named after Francis Brockton, an engineer who surveyed the BC Coast and found coal near Vancouver in 1857-60.
Today, the lighthouse is a beautiful spot to snap some photos and take in the views over the ocean, city, and north shore mountains. This is a quick visit that can be done while biking the sea wall.
Related read: For more great views check out the best things to do on Granville Island!
14. Wander through the Stanley Park Rose Garden
The Stanley Park Rose Garden was established a whole century ago and has been delighting visitors with its 3,500 rose bushes ever since! The landscaping is beautiful and makes for a perfect place to take a stroll – especially on a honeymoon in Vancouver! The Rose Garden is located near the entrance of Stanley Park and is free to enter.
Besides the Rose Garden, there are a few other gardens to check out in Stanley Park. The Ted and Mary Greig Rhododendron Garden has over 4,500 plants around the Pitch & Putt golf course. There is also a Shakespeare Garden and Rock Garden! So spend some time just exploring and enjoying the variety of beautiful plants and flowers.
15. Play tennis
Another activity for the sporty people – tennis! The Stanley Park tennis courts are located at the park entrance and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
There are 11 courts, so you shouldn’t have a problem getting a spot. If someone is waiting, there is a 30-minute time limit. If you prefer, you can also book six of the courts for up to two hours to ensure you have a spot.
16. Take in views of the Lions Gate Bridge
There is no shortage of beautiful views in and around Stanley Park. But one of the absolute best views is out over the Lions Gate Bridge. Lions Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge that crosses the Burrard Inlet, connecting the cities of Vancouver and North Vancouver. The name reference “Lion” refers to the Lions, which are mountain peaks that the bridge is pointing towards.
Prospect Point Park is probably one of the best spots to see the Lions Gate Bridge. You’ll love the sweeping panorama views that capture mountains, ocean, and city all in one!
17. Hear the Nine O’Clock Gun
One of the most exciting things about Stanley Park is that a cannon fires every night at 9:00 pm! And it’s been fired every day for a century! The history of the Nine O’Clock Gun is pretty colorful (read about it here) and has endured a lot, including a kidnapping.
The gun is located on the eastern section of the park that faces Coal Harbour. If you go by there at 9:00 pm, you will see a city employee go and set it off like clockwork every night. You can either watch it standing right there (bring some earplugs!) or across the water at Coal Harbour.
18. Go on a horse-drawn tour
Step back in time and take a trip in a horse-drawn cart! These old-fashioned carriages slowly travel throughout the park, giving you an excellent tour of the whole area. A tour guide will provide information about both Stanley Park and the city, pointing out significant highlights and attractions along the way.
Stanley Park Horse-Drawn Tours operate between March to October. The 1-hour ride costs $50 CAD/adult and bookings are not required. Just show up and get on the next ride!
19. Take a photo in Hollow Tree
As you’re walking one of the many trails in Stanley Park (check out point #3), keep your eyes open for the Hollow Tree! This iconic landmark is located on the west side of Stanley Park Drive and is fascinating to see. It is a 700-800-year-old stump of a Western red cedar tree. It is huge and definitely the perfect photo op!
There are so many old, beautiful trees in Stanley Park. Take your time to wander through the trails and marvel at their beauty!
20. Spot wildlife
While Stanley Park may be in the middle of the city, it is still a great spot to see some local wildlife. In fact, 500 species of animals are known to live in the park.
If you look carefully, you might see some bald eagles that nest in the park. In addition, bats, beavers, herons, harbor seals, squirrels, raccoons, and more animals all call Stanley Park home! Just make sure that you do not feed the wildlife but say hello from a distance.
21. Go golfing at the Stanley Park Pitch and Putt
One fun way to spend an afternoon in Stanely Park is at the Pitch & Putt. This 18-hole course has sculpted fairways and beautiful surroundings. It’s a great spot to try out your swing if you are a beginner as the holes range from 40 to 100 yards.
This course is very affordable at just $14.83 CAD for 18 holes. Punch cards and monthly passes are also available if you want to go a few times.
Where to Stay in Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver is one of the most popular cities in Canada. The fact is that in the summer and winter the city books up in advance very fast! Booking your hotel or hostel well in advance is the only way to secure the best place to stay for you!
Some great hotels and hostels in Vancouver that we love are:
The Cambie Hostel Gastown – This budget hostel is an overall good budget choice. The location is in the heart of Gastown and close to lots of bars and restaurants and attached to the hostel is a very lively bar too. Rooms are clean but the bathrooms are a little cramped. It’s perfect for backpackers on a budget and is considerably cheaper than others offering comparable quality.
Times Square Suites – For a beautiful hotel close to Stanley Park you can’t go past the Times Square Hotel. It’s very hard to fault this hotel and the location is perfect. It is a good mix between being affordable as well as a very nice hotel.
Hyatt Regency Vancouver – For those wanting the perfect location halfway between Stanley Park and Gastown, the Hyatt Regency is a perfect choice. As you can imagine, it’s a luxury stay in a large hotel chain that is highly reviewed!
Related Read: Need more info on where to stay? Check out our complete guide on the best areas to stay in Vancouver.
Thanks for reading!
Stanley Park is pretty amazing. Not only is it a large park with beautiful views, but there are really endless things to do and see! I hope this list gave you some inspiration for your next trip to Vancouver and helped you see why Stanley Park is one of the city’s must-see spots.
If you liked this blog, then you’ll like my other Vancouver. Whistler and Canada blogs such as: